Aspen’s Jake Zamansky: Man on a mission
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Jake Zamansky is going it alone.
In June, the U.S. Ski Team let the 27-year-old Aspen resident go after nine years on the B, C and Development squads for failing to meet U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association criteria. In order to continue to chase his dreams on the alpine World Cup circuit, Zamansky is serving as his own ski technician and travel agent these days.
Circumstances have been challenging to say the least, but Zamansky said Tuesday that he’s enjoying the ride.
“I’m operating on a little different budget than Bode,” Zamansky joked in a telephone interview from Park City, Utah. “It’s a one-man show, and it’s been a learning process, but it makes what I’ve accomplished so far that much sweeter.”
In December, Zamansky qualified for a second run in a World Cup race for the first time in 33 career starts on the circuit, finishing 24th in a giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy. He followed that up with a 27th-place finish in GS in Adelboden, Switzerland. Ted Ligety was the only other American to finish both races.
Monday, Zamansky learned that those two results had secured him a spot in February’s World Championships in Val d’Isere, France. It will be his first appearance.
“To be one of the four best GS skiers in the country and to get an opportunity to go to worlds is a great honor,” he said. “Anything can happen. … Every race I go to is an opportunity to do something great and win from anywhere in the field.”
Zamansky finished 51st in the World Cup’s GS standings last season; he needed to wind up 45th or better to maintain his position with the U.S. Ski Team. Despite that setback, Zamansky assured himself starts in every World Cup GS during 2009 ” his 10th season competing internationally ” by virtue of his 2008 NorAm title in the discipline.
Being dropped from the U.S. Ski Team was disappointing, but something Zamansky said he saw coming.
“I got the feeling that things were not going to go my way with them,” he said. “With what I accomplished through NorAms, I still get the opportunity to race and try to accomplish what I think I’m capable of doing in this sport.”
While he hasn’t been completely shut off from the U.S. Ski Team ” he’s still invited to train and typically stays with them on the World Cup ” certain luxuries that made life and competing a lot easier have been taken away. Consequently, Zamansky has leaned heavily on sponsors, family, friends and the community for financial and moral support.
In addition, Zamansky tunes his own skis. He books his own flights, hotels and rental cars. While the International Ski Federation helps with lodging on the World Cup circuit, Zamansky actively participates in fundraising efforts to make ends meet.
“I have some great sponsors and some good training opportunities ” I couldn’t do it all by myself, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’ve definitely have to be thrifty because times are tight. … It goes back to just wanting to focus on racing and going as fast as I can in the start gate and not having to worry about anything else when it comes to finances.
“After the season, I’ll either have to file for bankruptcy, or I’ll keep going.”
While he will not admit it out right, Zamansky hints that struggling to make it on his own has made him more motivated than ever.
He was off snow for three months during the summer after shattering his collarbone in a motor bike accident. Consequently, he had just eight days of training before the season’s first World Cup GS in Soelden, Austria. While he failed to finish, Zamansky called the race a “good start.”
In Beaver Creek in early December, Zamansky recorded some top-20 splits but again failed to qualify for a second run. He posted the same result in Val d’Isere less than a week later.
“I had some good splits, so I knew my speed was there,” Zamansky said. “Top 10 results are definitely in the cards if I can just do it for an entire run.”
He finally put things together in Alta Badia and Adelboden. He was happy to share his long-awaited success with members of the U.S. Ski Team.
“I have no hard feelings toward them. There are great people in that organization, and we all have our different paths,” Zamansky said. “It’s an honor to be on the team, and when it comes time to make a decision [whether to return], we’ll sit down and talk about it. For now, I’m focused on the task ahead. I’m not concerned about what the ski team thinks or wants from me. I’m going out there and doing this for me.
“This experience has really showed me what I’m capable of.”
Both on and off the snow.
Despite being a big star, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen has frequently connected with the young AVSC athletes while training at Aspen Highlands over the years.